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Maricopa County resolves air quality permit deficiencies

Release Date: 11/09/2006
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, EPA, 415/947-4248, Holly Ward, MCAQD, 602/506-6713

(San Francisco, Calif. – 11/09/2006) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that Maricopa County has corrected deficiencies in its clean air permitting program.

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department’s Title V air permitting program now complies with the Clean Air Act.

The EPA determined that the department’s internal operational changes and rule and policy changes have resolved the county’s Title V operating permits program deficiencies identified in the EPA’s May 2005 notice of deficiency.

“This is a significant milestone for the air department, and I commend its hard work to turn the program around and address the issues raised last year,” said Deborah Jordan, the EPA's Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “We are confident that Maricopa County is now able to implement an air permitting program that meets federal requirements and will help keep the air clean.”

“Our department takes clean air initiatives seriously and I believe our comprehensive response and corrective action plan shows just that,” states Maricopa County Air Quality Department Director Bob Kard. “I plan to continue this department’s movement toward the ultimate goal of making Maricopa County’s air healthy for everyone to breathe.”

Following the EPA notice of deficiency and program evaluation, Maricopa County Air Quality Department submitted a plan to address the deficiencies and provided quarterly updates beginning in February to report improvements to the program, which include the following major corrections:

created a new air quality agency and modified its management structure to better address air permitting requirements;
improved its fee rule policy so that companies refusing to pay air permit fees would face enforcement actions;
improved its accounting system to better track air permitting fees, and
developed a plan to hire and train necessary employees to implement the program.

On May 17, 2005, the EPA officially notified Maricopa County that its clean air permit program did not comply with Clean Air Act requirements, leading the EPA to issue a notice of deficiency. The EPA evaluated Maricopa County's operating permits program May through December 2004 and found the county’s process for issuing permits was seriously flawed; permits were issued without all applicable requirements; significant permit revisions were processed as minor revisions without public review and comment; the Title V program was understaffed; and the county did not have clear Title V accounting costs.

Under Title V of the Clean Air Act, local air districts issue permits to refineries and other stationary sources of air pollution. The air permits are legally enforceable documents that must include all applicable Clean Air Act requirements. These permits provide a road map for how a facility will comply with those requirements and also give the public and local agencies critical information on how a facility will comply.